Better Know A Micro-Party: Socialists

New post series, exploring Ireland’s smaller political parties. First up, some of the Trotskyites.

Name: The Socialist Party
Founded: 1996, but it really began in 1972.
Leader: National Committee
Representation: 1 MEP and 6 Local councillors
Politically: Far Left
Associated With: Anti-Capitalism, Anti-EU, Anti-Tax, Anti-War, Pro-Union, Pro-Working Class Rights, Pro-Public Ownership Of National Assets
Notable Members: Joe O’ Higgins MEP, former TD.


The Socialist Party has a complicated history, not helped by the numerous other entities that include the word “socialist” in their name, both today and in the past. Today’s Socialist party see’s its roots in Militant Tendency Ireland, a hard left group with stong entryism ties to the Labour Party. After a mass expulsion in the late 80s it became Militant Labour, before adopting the less alarmist title of the Socialist Party in 1996.

Electoral Record

Electorally, the Socialists have had some success, most obviously with Joe Higgins. The Dublin Councillor was elected to the Dail in 97 and retained his seat in 02. I always found him to be a reasonable enough speaker in the house and I was surprised when he lost his seat in the 07 election. Not one to rest on his previous accomplishments, he successfully gained an MEP seat in 09.

That’s all the Socialists have been able to accomplish on a national level, with all their other success being in local elections. They currently have 6 Councillors in their ranks, 4 of them in the Dublin area (and one of the others just to the North in Louth). It should be noted of course, that the Socialists have lost far more elections then they have won.

What They’ve Done Recently

Lots of protests and the like. Shell, bin charges, water charges,the Middle Eastern Wars etc. The parties true claim to (media) fame in the last few years was their involvement in the GAMA wage scandal when they successfully exposed illegal practices regarding the payment of foreign workers.

Since then, with the loss of their sole Dail seat, the party has been less noticeable. They campaigned for a “No” vote in both Lisbon treaty referendums and have been at the forefront of opposition to the current bailout/IMF crisis.

What They’ll Do In The Future?

Like socialist tend to be, they’re about empowering the people, specifically the little people. The Party advocates public ownership and democratic rights over all economic matters, taking those responsibilities out of the hands of bankers and the wealthy. They are opposed to most taxes and charges especially for public services like water and rubbish collection.

In that regard, the Socialists stand for a wide scale cultural and political revolution though they have made little indication that they would approve of violent methods to achieve such.

Chances In The Next Election

Probably the best of the Micro-Parties but that’s not saying much. A lot will depend on how well Labour do and how transfers will go. The Socialists will be sure to run a good few candidates in the Dublin constituencies, but its hard to imagine them getting anywhere outside the County. Higgins seems to be putting himself back into the Irish race so he’s their best bet, Clare Daly being the only other to really look out for, she consistently runs in Dublin North. The party is part of the “United Left Alliance” (whom I’ll be covering at a later date) but its hard to see how that will actual effect poll numbers.

And it should be remembered that the likely make-up of the next Dail, where Fine Gael and Labour make up a majority, is not a good one for independents and one-seat parties to be.

NFB’s View

Like all Micro-Parties, the Socialists have the luxury of not ever actually having to walk the walk. That is, they can talk revolution, reform and sunshine lollipop smiles for the working class all they want, but they have little actual substance: How will they reform things? What political changes do they advocate? Why is it that the self-proclaimed party of the working class doesn’t have the wholesale support of that demographic?

They also have the image problem of being seen as Labour redux, that is, a simply a offshoot of their larger sister party with far less support. The Socialist seem to put all their hopes into a handful of candidates and seem unduly satisfied with Joe Higgins winning the odd election. As of yet, I can see no evidence that the party is really committed to trying to become more than just a Micro-Party, happy to be consistently looking in.

That being said, if they could get their act together, and branch out from their base in Dublin, it’s quite possible that they could have some success. But, like Labour, they have to start being more clear and specific about their goals and how they will achieve those goals. They have to acknowledge that there is a Middle Class that requires some attention. Until then, they will remain a minor force, and even then only in Dublin, one that makes a lot of noise before others actual do some governing.

Most Likely To Say: How can anyone defend our corrupt system anymore? We need to free the working class!

Least Likely To Say: The electorate don’t actually like us that much.

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3 Responses to Better Know A Micro-Party: Socialists

  1. Jim says:

    2 clarifications:
    There are two councillors outside of the Dublin area – one in Drogheda and one in Cork.

    Secondly, Mick Barry in Cork is widely accepted to have an outside chance of taking a Dáil seat.

    And one other point: The fact that a Micro-party could receive 50,000 first preference votes in Dublin, defeating the main anti-establishment party as well as the government party, a party that’s been in power for the vast majority of the history of this state would certainly contradict some of your claims of irrelevance.

    • HandsofBlue says:

      First point: Corrected and my apolgies. Too quick a glance at ElectionIreland.

      Second: Do you have a source for that?

      Third: I disagree. 50’000 votes first preferences? Impressive but the FF candidate had more. Higgins was relying on tranfers to, if we’re being honest, scrape in just ahead of Eoin Ryan. And those were transfers from “the main anti-establishment party”. Defeat them? Sure, but thier voters made sure you won.

      And, at the end of the day, it was an MEP election. Lets be honest here. They’re not on the same level as General or Local elections. I would consider those Socilists elected as Councillers to be a better example of success then Joe Higgins (at this current moment in time).

      And my other point stands: Somewhat popular in one county? And a small section of Cork and Louth? Not good enough to dissude me from my “claims of irrelevance”.

      And, I should be clear, that is not meant in some kind of insulting, baiting way, just a statement of opinion. Win more then one Dail seat, in more then one constituency, and we’ll talk.

  2. Pingback: Happy Birthday To Me | Never Felt Better

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